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BGE Utility Bills Will No Longer Increase During Power Outages

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—State regulators make a change that could affect your utility bill during a major power outage. It could also speed up restoration efforts.

Adam May has details and reaction from BGE.

Most people didn't realize they were paying a little extra after a power outage. Officials say those days are over.

When Hurricane Irene slammed into the mid-Atlantic last August, she left more than a million Marylanders without electricity.

"The power lines were out in backyard, down on our deck," said Bethany Lippy.

The Lippy family was in the dark for more than a week—unaware they were subject to a special charge on their BGE bill.

"I don't think as a consumer I've thought of it before," Lippy said.

The charge was a part of what's called a decoupling mechanism, and the Public Service Commission just made changes to the complicated rule, hoping it will make service restoration faster and save customers a little money.

Under the old rules, utility companies could increase their delivery rates after a storm to make up lost revenue. For example, during the 2011 blizzard, BGE charged customers an extra 3 cents. During Hurricane Irene they charged around $1. Those charges are no longer allowed.

"Not a significant savings for our customers, but certainly we understand and appreciate the PSC's consideration of this issue," said Linda Foy, BGE spokeswoman.

Foy says the old charges never caused them to slow down.

"BGE's goal during any power outage is to restore power as safely and quickly as possible," Foy said.

BGE customers say the changes make dog-gone sense.

"I think it's the moral thing to do. If you're not using the power, you shouldn't be paying for the power," said Betsy Petrelli, BGE customer.

The changes take effect immediately but are not retroactive, so customers will not see any credits on their bills.

The changes affect every utility company in Maryland.

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